Tri X 400 vs TMax 400

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by tania_fernandez, Nov 19, 2003.

  1. Could anyone tell me the technical and quality differences between
    both films?
  2. Tri-X Pan- "traditional" emulsion design. In production since around 1953, with many improvements over the years. Very flexible (forgiving)in exposure and development. Almost certainly the most popular b/w film ever made, and probably still the best seller.
    TMax 400- introduced in 1987 as a supplement to Tri-X. "T-grain" emulsion for finer grain. Unlike traditional films, not much shadow contrast, lots of highlight contrast (more like a slide film). Very controversial in the beginning. Its requirement for very careful processing caused many photographers to complain bitterly about 'blown-out' highlights, a result usually of the film's highlight contrast and overdevelopment. These issues have long been solved but TMY still has a reputation as a 'difficult' film to get the best from. Either film can produce beautiful results when you've done the testing and made your decisions.
  3. Technical:

    T-Max uses a tabular-shaped crystal that has more surface area to volume ratio, giving more sensitivity for the grain size.


    The contrast of T-Max is higher in the highlight areas, lower in the shadows. Tri-X is the opposite.
  4. Basically, tri-x is more contrasty but t-max has a bigger spread of mid tones. Tri-x is fine grained, Tmax is super fine grained.
    Tri-x has a certain classic look. I like to use it with Rodinal.
    Tmax I like to use with Ilfosol S @ 1/9 for unbeatable sharpness.
    Tri-x has a thick base which can make it difficult to print if overexposed or overdevolped.
    Tmax has a thin base with a wide lattitude, I find it the easier of the two films to work with.
    If you haven't used a t-grain film before just make sure you use fresh fixer and give it double the time you would for the more traditional films like tri-x.
    Both are great films as far as I'm concerned.
  5. I have found TMAX 400 to be a pretty bad film, in most respects, and Tri-X to be a very wonderful film.
    TMAX 400 might be great if you're doing studio lighting and can control the light precisely, but if you shoot outdoors in changing conditions, you WILL be a victim of the blown-out highlight problem.
    Contrary to what others have said, Tri-X almost NEVER gets blocked highlights unless you severely overexpose and/or overdevelop it.
    What makes Tri-X even better is that it looks very unique in different developers. TMAX 400 is designed to be machine processed, and is bullet-proof to developer changes. On the good side, TMAX 400 can be very fine grained. That's the only good thing I can say about it.
  6. I have to agree with Russ on this one. TMax 400 is not so nice for general shooting. I use it once in a while when I know the light will be pretty consistent, but otherwise I stick to Tri-X as my fast film of choice. Some say it pushes really well, but for that I'm pretty much hooked on Tri-X in Diafine.
  7. I have to disagree with those who say TMY is only good for tightly controlled lighting conditions. I haven't shot a roll of Tri-X in about thirty years, so I can't comment on it, but I've shot quite a bit of TMY in 120 over the last few months, and it's been my experience that it's as forgiving as any B&W film I can recall using, with the possible exception of Verichrome Pan from the late 1960s. I've pushed it to EI 3200 and got very thin, but scannable negatives; I've shot it at EI 200 in a camera only one step ahead of a Brownie Bullet (fixed focus, fixed shutter speed, f/11 to f/32) and got fine results; I've shot it in a 50+ year old 6x9 folder, a somewhat newer Moskva-5, and a still newer Seagull TLR, and it's performed well in every one. I've shot bright sun and late night time exposures on the same roll, and both printed well. I haven't used my light meter at all in a couple months, and I still get good negatives. Blown highlights only enter in when I seriously overexpose the entire frame. And I'm getting my film commercially processed at a local lab, because I don't yet have a darkroom of my own set up.
  8. Do a search of the archives. You'll find dozens of threads debating this very issue - Tri-X vs. TMY - and many opinions regarding each, both agreeing with some expressed here and conflicting with these opinions.

    I use both. Both are excellent in their place.
    bertliang likes this.
  9. Heres my 2 cents worth,<br> Tmax and TriX are both fine films I use Tmax 400 as my film of choice this summer for our holiday to Greace. When the exposure and development are correct it works well. I found it better suited for landscape and general scenes than for people. I usually develop it in D76 1:0 the grain is reasonably fine and it looks very sharp. If the exposure is off or the development I don't like it so much I recently had to print some on a harder grade of paper than usuall because the light was so flat and it looked really bad and much more grainy than usuall so I decided to try Trix I have to say that I prefere TriX to Tmax 400 and I did not see such a huge increase in visible grain when I tried harder paper with TriX. TriX for me has a better look and feel to the images that I like.<br> These are only my personal feeling about the two films you really should try both you would have to enlarge them to 8x10 inches or more to really see the grain differences and if you are not going to proccess and print yourself you should look at one of the C41 films instead.<br> My money would go on TriX but I would not say that Tmax is a bad film it just seems that TriX is more flexible.
  10. I have used TMY but I can't remember anything about it which tells us something in itself. I have recently shot some Tri-X (TX 400) rated at 160 ASA and devved in it Rodinal. Shadows are very nicely rendered while highlights do not block up. It's sharp, grain (even in Rodinal) is not obtrusive and tonality is excellent. It gives good 'meaty' tones.
  11. The main technical difference between TMY 400 and Tri-X is density range, and this has been discussed many, many times here on We can blame this on a silver conspiracy at Kodak, or to changing photographic tastes, or to tabular vs older dimensional grain, or to cosmic rays. Regardless, the main difference in 'look' of these two films is due to density range. The density range difference is also most evident in the midtones of TMX and TMY vs older films. The term used above is actually quite appropriate; "meaty tones", and that's density range.

    My personal preference is for Tri-X pro or HP5 over TMY 400. While I can understand the technological and commercial processing reasons for the use of TMY/TMX and originally thought TMY 400 was 'da bomb', I've learned to dislike this film's lack of strong tonal seperation in the midtones and only marginal increase in sharpness over Tri-X pro. In order for images to look good on TMX/TMY the scene requires strong midtone contrast yet smooth highlight transitions, and in the real world that's typically only the case in the studio.

    With due respect for Lex's non-partisianship and Donald's technique, I can't tell if the above image of the lake was taken with under-exposed Tri-X, or TMY 400, and *that's* the problem with TMY 400. Unless you shoot it under it's ideal conditions, it renders a very similiar curve to under exposed Tri-X, which is dull and murky.
  12. Tri X for me just looks more SUBSTANTIAL. As mentioned before, it is really flexible. I simply throw in a roll and decide later what speed I will "shoot at".....anywhere from 100 - 3200 ASA. While shooting, I also speculate as to which developer I will use as that influences the shooting. Rodinal, D-76 and Xtol are my mainstays. jmp
  13. I went to my local lab today to get some of the Tri-X I developed printed (My SCSI card is taking eons to ship :( ).

    So I got to talking to the guy at the lab, and I asked him why he had such a selection of TMax, and hardly any Tri-X. He told me that he had just started selling Tri-X again as a few people were requesting it. He said that he hadn't sold any for a period of about 10 years. So I asked him why that was. I had just read this thread, and I asked him why this was seeing as how Kodak mostly sells Tri-x. He told me that Tri-X is an older film, and that TMax is much improved over it. I asked him if it was harder to develop, and he said that it was just as easy to develop as any other silver based film. I asked him what were the differences, and he said that it was a little less contrasty, and much finer grain. Then I asked him if it had a different look to it, and he responded that it looked just the same as Tri-X, only a little less contrasty.

    Now I am left wondering the truth. There seems to be so many conflicting opinions that I just can't figure out what is fact, and what is fiction. I did end up buying some TMax 400, I figured it was worth a shot.

    I guess the only real way for me to figure this out is by having 1 photo from each film printed on 8x10. An advantage for me is that I can buy TMax at my grocery store for $3 a roll, while I have to buy Tri-X at my local lab for $5 a roll.

    Dan O.
  14. Dan:

    The 'guy at the lab' is not a photo expert. That's not his role. There are distinct differences between T-Max and Tri-X, and even though T-Max is somewhat finer grained than Tri-X that does not make it a better film for all uses.

    It depends on what kind of work you do, and what kind of lighting conditions you're under.

    The best way to evaluate these films is by trying them yourself, developing and printing them yourself.

  15. Get rolls of each and check it out for yourself.

    Also....don't ask that guy anymore questions :)

  16. Well, I've got my first roll of TMY in my camera, and have taken about 18 exposures already.

    I also bought 3 more rolls on B&H, along with 3 rolls of Tri-X.

    I took a look at, and I have to be honest that I couldn't notice any difference. Would I be correct in assuming that these differences are small? Would anyone other than a "photo expert" ever notice these differences? The reason I ask this is that depite TMax being the lesser quality film in some areas, it is considered to be superior in film scanning. Film scanning is something that I want to do. I like the digital darkroom, and I think I'm pretty good at it.

    If TMY will give me superior scans to Tri-X, and not have a noticable difference in things like midtone quality and so forth, then TMY will be my film of choice.

    The only reason I trust this guy's opinion is because he has been working with film, of course including BW, for over 30 years. If someone that has worked with BW film for 30 years doesn't know of/care of the differences between TMY and Tri-X, why should I? Some of those TMY photos from photosig were quite good, in fact I really liked them.

    Dan O.
  17. Developing a film is different from photographing with it. A lab guy may look with a technician's eye, not an artist's eye. Also he will develop in a machine, not by hand. A scanned photo on a computer screen cannot show you what a real print looks like.
    When I started doing my own b/w I tried t-max films, but they went all over the place in contrast and density. Then I switched to Ilford FP4 and HP5 and got better results. Then I switched to Tri-X and Plus-X and got even better results. But this may be due to me learning how to photograph and process better.
    Anyway, t-max films are very sensitive to changes in developing time, agitation, temperature, dilution and what have you. This makes them difficult for beginners to work with. I found them often muddy and contrasty at the same time!
  18. Well, I deveolped that roll of Tmax. I'm getting about 8 exposures printed at a local lab. They won't be ready till next tuesday though :(.

    The negs themselves turned out great. I had some that were over exposed by 3 stops and still looked quite useable. (Stupid broken lens). Anyway, they looked like they had good contrast, and the grain was decently fine. I didn't really notice that much difference in grain from tri-x though. Am I supposed to be able to see TMY grain in a 10x loupe?

    I did however, load another roll of Tri-X into the camera. I figured I'll make it 50/50. I also bought 3 rolls of each online at B&H off the grey market. Man, 8 cents an exposure!!! 6 of course if you don't include shipping.

    I can't wait to get my prints back. Some of them looked really good. There was one neg that had an oddity. I took a photo of a creek and a bridge on campus. The bridge in the neg had a greyish square over it. I couldn't tell what that was all about.

    If TMY is only slightly different from TX, and I can scan it better, then I will choose TMY. But both conditions must be met. Otherwise, I'll stick with the old trusty Tri-X.
  19. I prefer the feeling of Tmax. A Tmax lover actually
  20. There will be others here far better qualified than I to advise on scanning, but if that is your main intention, rather than traditional darkroom printing, I would suggest you stick to something forgiving, and then make it look like the film you want it to in photoshop. I have no experience of Tri -x, as it is like rocking-horse sh*t here in the UK, but from the sounds of it, that would make a good choice. Use it to the exclusion of everything else for a good while, develop the negs as per the instructions on the box. Eventually, you’ll want to stand develop Rodinal at homeopathic dilution for a week, but until that absurd notion grabs you, make great negatives doing what it says on the tin.
    Everyone else’s impressions of the particular qualities of this film in that developer leave me baffled. I am in your camp with this one, they all look much the same to me.
    Have fun!

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